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NFL competition committee discussing revised replay system

NFL referee Walt Coleman, center, enters the instant

NFL referee Walt Coleman, center, enters the instant replay sideline booth to review a play during an NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Houston Texans in Pittsburgh on Oct. 20, 2014. Credit: AP / Gene Puskar

INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL’s competition committee is discussing a revised replay system in which decisions about reviewable calls will be made directly from the league’s headquarters in New York.

Currently, the referee at each game is responsible for the final ruling on replay reviews, although he consults with the league’s officiating department in New York. Under the format being discussed by the competition committee, the referee would be involved in looking at the play in question, but it would be the officials in New York who would make the final determination about whether or not a call should be overturned.

“It’s something we’re looking at,” said Giants president and co-owner John Mara, a member of the competition committee. “We’re not ready to make a final decision, but it’s being discussed.”

By potentially tweaking the system, the NFL ostensibly would provide more consistency in determining replay reviews from a more centralized location, instead of allowing individual referees to make the calls. Referees currently view replays on the field under a covered television monitor, but under the new system, they would look at plays in question on a computer tablet screen.

Centralizing replay decisions also would be a way to speed up games since the group of officials in New York would get to see multiple angles of a given play in a more timely fashion than the on-field referee.

Mara said the competition committee also is discussing a plan to hire referees on a full-time basis. Most referees have other jobs where they live, but the idea would be to have all referees work exclusively for the league.

“We would probably have to phase this in,” Mara said, citing the need for current referees to decide if they wanted to give up their outside jobs to work only for the league.

Mara said the committee also is considering allowing certain celebrations that currently are subject to penalty. For instance, players can be penalized under the current rules for making snow angels on the field because they are prevented from going to the ground to celebrate touchdowns.

And the committee also is looking at giving the NFL more discretion to suspend players for gratuitous hits during games. John Elway, the Broncos’ general manager and a competition committee member, said there are some hits that might be subject to suspension, thus further penalizing those players and providing a deterrent against others.

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